Bisexual Activists Erased
from ABC’s “When We Rise”
Compiled by BiNetUSA, edited by Ron J. Suresha
As activist Lani Ka’ahumanu explained, “How disappointed the bisexual community was to find that the touted ABC television miniseries “When We Rise” has no bisexual representation. The B once again has been erased from LGBTQ. When queer people rose in New York, San Francisco, and elsewhere, bisexual people rose right next to them. Bisexual men and women worked alongside noted activists Cecilia Chung, Roma Guy, Cleve Jones, and Ken Jones, whose lives are featured in the docudrama.
“This is not to take away from these pioneers’ incredible contributions; this is to point out what might not be noticed in the excitement of watching ‘When We Rise’. The suppression and silencing of bisexual contributions, history, and culture serves no one, especially our multi-generation LGBTQI community/movement. Williams Institute and Pew research among others show there are more self-identified bisexuals than gay and lesbian people put together. Forty percent of self-identified bisexual people are people of color. Bisexual suicide, depression, anxiety, domestic violence, rape, stalking, poverty, alcohol/drug/nicotine rates are higher than for gay, lesbian, and heterosexual people.
“The ongoing casual and sometimes callous disregard of bisexual people and our lives is unacceptable and fuels a bisexual mental/physical health crisis. Excluding and isolating anyone in our community hurts all of us, especially in these dangerous times. What are you able to do to stand with and stand up for bisexual people and challenge biphobia, misinformation and ignorance – including perhaps your own?”
1960s and 1970s
Born Robert Anthony Martin, Jr., and known by the pseudonym “Donny the Punk,” Stephen Donaldson began the first officially recognized gay student group at Columbia University in 1967. In August 1965, already long aware of his sexual attraction to men but desiring to take classes to further his education, Donaldson "had a social worker call the dean's office to ask whether Columbia would register a known homosexual." After a delay of two weeks, the administration responded that he "would be allowed to register, on condition that he undergo psychotherapy and not attempt to seduce other students." He entered Columbia University that fall and began using the pseudonym Stephen Donaldson so he could be open about his sexuality without embarrassing his father.
In 1966, Donaldson fell in love with a woman, Judith "JD Rabbit" Jones (whom he later considered his "lifetime companion") and began to identify as a bisexual. In the summer of 1966, Donaldson began a relationship with National LGBTQ Task Force co-founder gay activist Frank Kameny, about whom Donaldson later wrote: "Frank gave me a complete education both in homosexuality and in the homophile movement, instructing me also in how to respond to attacks from psychiatry, religion, the law, etc., etc. He largely shaped my gay ideology and continued to influence me even after I split with him ideologically in ’68 – ’69.” In August, Kameny took Donaldson to Cherry Grove on Fire Island, where he “was thrilled to meet another gay Columbia student [James Millham] and to learn that Millham lived with his lover, a New York University student, in one of Columbia's dormitories.” That fall, Donaldson suggested to Millham “that they form a Mattachine-like organization on campus, what he envisioned as ‘the first chapter of a spreading confederation of student homophile groups’.” At first, Donaldson was unable to gain official recognition for the Student Homophile League (SHL) (now called the Columbia Queer Alliance), as Columbia required a membership list. Donaldson and Millham were the only gay students willing to provide their names. This prevented the group from receiving university funding or holding public events on campus until Donaldson realized that by “recruiting the most prominent student leaders to become pro forma members, he could satisfy the administration without compromising the anonymity of gay students, and Columbia officially chartered the country's first student gay rights group on April 19, 1967,” and subsequently the first known LGBT student movement. The publicity led students at other universities to contact Donaldson about starting chapters.
In 1968, Donaldson certified SHL chapters at Cornell University, led by Jearld Moldenhauer and advised by radical priest Daniel Berrigan; New York University, headed by Rita Mae Brown; and Stanford University. In 1969, chapters were started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by Stan Tillotson, San Francisco State University, and Rutgers University by African American Lionel Cuffie. The University of Massachusetts Amherst gained a chapter in 1970. Donaldson was “heavily involved throughout the rest of the 1960s not only as national leader of the Student Homophile League but also as an elected officer of the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO) and of its Eastern Regional subsidiary.” By 1971, there were an estimated 150 gay student groups at colleges and universities, “often with official sanction and with remarkable acceptance from fellow students.” His “growing feeling of discomfort with biphobia in the homophile/gay liberation movement was a major factor” in his deciding to quit the movement and enlist in the Navy after graduating from Columbia in 1970.
Between 1970 and 1972, Donaldson served in the United States Navy before being kicked out based on a found letter touting his exploits with men and women. Donaldson took on the Navy in a public press battle that energized the gay rights movement in the 1970s. As Randy Shilts wrote in Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the US Military, “In the tens of thousands of hearings since World War II where comparable actions had been taken on the basis of comparable evidence, the matter ended there, with the sailor skulking away in disgrace. Petty Officer Martin, however, went public with what had happened to him and swore to fight for an honorable discharge. What was more, he enlisted some powerful support.” From 1972 until 1977, Donaldson worked fiercely for bisexual advocacy and drafted the first religious document in support of modern bisexuality while attending the annual Friends (Quaker) General Conference (FGC) in Ithaca, New York. Donaldson and fellow bi activist Brenda Howard, and LGBT activist L. Craig Schoonmaker, are credited with popularizing the word “Pride” to describe these festivities of multiple weeklong activities that Brenda Howard first conceived to commemorate the Stonewall Rebellion and Riots.
Brenda Howard conceived and coordinated a one-month Stonewall Rebellion anniversary rally, and later, a one year anniversary march and celebration. This became the annual New York City Pride March that, in turn, spawned Pride Marches around the country and the world.
A militant activist who helped plan and participated in LGBT rights actions for over three decades, Howard was an active member of the Gay Liberation Front and for several years chair of the Gay Activists Alliance’s Speakers Bureau in the post-Stonewall era. She is known as the “Mother of Pride” for her work in coordinating a rally and then the Christopher Street Liberation Day March to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
Howard originated the idea of a week-long series of events around Pride Day which became the genesis of the annual LGBT Pride celebrations that are now held around the world every June. Additionally, Howard, along with fellow activists Stephen Donaldson and L. Craig Schoonmaker are credited with popularizing the word "Pride" to describe these festivities.
A fixture in New York City’s LGBT Community, Howard was active in the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights which helped guide New York City’s Gay rights law through the City Council in 1986 as well as ACT-UP and Queer Nation. In 1987, Howard helped found the New York Area Bisexual Network (NYABN) to help coordinate services to the region’s growing bisexual community. She was also an active member of the early bisexual political activist group BiPAC, a regional organizer for BiNet USA, a co-facilitator of the Bisexual S/M Discussion Group, and a founder of the nation’s first Alcoholics Anonymous chapter for bisexuals. On a national level, Howard’s activism included work on both the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights and the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, where she was female co-chair of the leather contingent, and Stonewall 25 in 1994.
“Since bisexuality has been discussed for centuries, it was a source of wry reflection for Dr Fritz Klein that he only managed to begin documenting it in the mid-1970s. But then Klein, who has died aged 73 following a heart attack, rapidly became the English-speaking world's leading authority on the subject. As a New York psychiatrist aware that he was himself bisexual, Klein visited the public library in 1974 for research, and was surprised to find hardly any material. He put an advertisement in the Village Voice, inviting similarly inclined people to meet for weekly discussions in what became known as the Bisexual Forum.
After hundreds of interviews, he formulated the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid (KSOG). Based on a scale of one-to-six devised originally by the famous researcher Alfred Kinsey, Klein's method also measured sexual experiences, but included attractions, emotional and social preferences, and self-identification. The work established his reputation. The widespread interest in the Klein grid was partly due to its claim to show that factors involved in a person’s sexual preference could change over the years and could vary even within groups of heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual people.
Despite some lurid headlines, Klein had succeeded in establishing further complexities to human sexuality. Klein published his research in The Bisexual Option and co-authored Man, His Body, His Sex (both 1978), Bisexualities: Theory and Research (1986), and Bisexual and Gay Husbands: Their Stories, Their Words (2001). His New York forum survives to this day. Klein himself, meanwhile, moved to San Diego, California, where in 1982 he founded another forum and launched the Journal of Bisexuality, on which he served as editor. In 1998 he founded the American Institute of Bisexuality, also known as the Bisexual Foundation, to support research and education, and was its chairman until his death.
In 1977, psychologist and bisexual activist Dr. Alan Rockway coauthored the nation's first successful gay rights ordinance put to public vote in Dade County, Florida. When former Miss America and orange juice spokesperson, Anita Bryant, initiated her viciously homophobic "Save Our Children" campaign in response to the ordinance, Dr. Rockway conceived of and initiated a national “gaycott” of Florida orange juice. The Florida Citrus Commission canceled Ms. Bryant's million-dollar contract as a result of the gaycott.
Passage of the ordinance became a pivotal event in LGBT history because of the widely televised efforts by Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell, and their antigay followers to repeal it. By the 1980s, Rockway had moved to San Francisco to organize and in 1983 he co-founded BiPOL, the first and oldest bisexual political organization founded on progressive feminist principles, which “educates, advocates, and agitates for bisexual rights, visibility and inclusion.” He started two of the nation's first LGBT mental health programs—in Miami, Florida, and Berkeley, California.
Aliant University's Rockway Institute is named in memory of him. Block Number 00285 of The AIDS Quilt includes Dr. Rockway's commemorative quilt panel, which also made an appearance at the 1990 National Bisexual Conference along with dozens of other panels.
Dr. Maggi Rubenstein co-founded, with Dr. David Loureau and Dr. Harriet Leve, The San Francisco Bisexual Center, which offered counseling and support services to Bay Area bisexuals and published a newsletter, The Bi Monthly, from 1976 to 1984.
The San Francisco Bisexual Center, in coalition with members of the gay and lesbian community, also sponsored a 1977 press conference with lesbian activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, and pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock, to protest Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign. Maggi Rubenstein also co-founded three major sex-education institutions in San Francisco: Glide Memorial Church's National Sex Forum, the San Francisco Sex Information Hotline, and the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality.
Bisexual activist Alexei Guren founded the Gay Teen Task Force in Miami, Florida, in response to Anita Bryant antigay “Save Our Children” campaign, and began outreach and advocacy for Latino married men who have sex with men. Alexei Guren is also on the founding board of the Health Crisis Network (now CareResource) in Miami.
ABilly S. Jones is a bisexual founding member of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, Gay/Bi Married Men's Association (GAMA), and DC Gay/Bi Fathers. He helped organize a multi racial LGBT delegation to meet with President Carter's White House staff. Jones was also a core organizer of the 1979 March On Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights and the Third World Conference of LGBT.
1980s and 1990s
In 1987, Venetia Porter, a Black bisexual woman and director of the New York State Office of AIDS Discrimination, helped design the first educational projects and trainings for state workers, hearing judges, and legal staff. In 1987, Porter became the first bisexual author, Black woman, or Black bisexual woman to be published in a public journal discussing minorities affected by AIDS. Porter was photographed along with other advocates of her day by the legendary Robert Giard whose photos of Porter are housed in the Gay and Lesbian archives of the New York Public Library. Porter went onto become the first executive director of BiNet USA.
In 1984, after a two year battle, BiPOL activist, AIDS educator, and therapist Dr. David Lourea persuaded the San Francisco Department of Public Health to recognize bisexual men in their official AIDS statistics. This acknowledgment set the standard for health departments nationwide which previously had recognized only gay men. This acknowledgment is significant because it forced healthcare providers to recognize the existence of bisexual men, their potential risk for contracting HIV, and their need to be targeted for HIV-prevention education.
In 1986, BiPOL's Autumn Courtney was elected co-chair of San Francisco's Lesbian Gay Freedom Day Pride Parade Committee. This election marks the first time an openly bisexual person holds this or a comparable position in the USA.
In 1982, bisexual pioneer published “Biphobic — Some of My Best Friends Are…” In 1983 Lani co-founded BiPOL and in 1987 BABN.
Lani was part of a contingent of 75 bisexuals who marched in the 1987 March On Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights. With Lucy Friedland and Liz Nania from the Boston Bisexual Women's Network, and produced a flyer, Are We Ready for a National Bisexual Network? with BiPOL'S address distributed at a contingent gathering at the Mayflower Hotel. LanI's article, "The Bisexual Movement: Are We Visible Yet?" which was included in the official Civil Disobedience Handbook for the March, was the first article on the bisexual community and bisexual activist movement to appear in a national gay and lesbian publication.
The response to the flyer Are We Ready … ? was a resounding, "Hell yeah!" BiPOL produced the 1990 National Bisexual Conference to organize the North American Bisexual Network, which later became BiNet USA, the country's oldest bisexual organization. [The East Coast Bisexual Network would go on to become The Bisexual Resource Center of Boston.]
The 1990 conference proved to be historic: the first national bisexual activist gathering, during which the first national bisexual organization was conceived.
Ka'ahumanu, a BiNet USA co-founder, also served as project coordinator for the first grant in the U.S. to target young high risk lesbian and bi women for HIV/AIDS prevention/education research. She and fellow bi activist, Cianna Stewart, created the “Peer Safer Sex Slut Team” — a safer sex outreach to young high-risk lesbian and bi women in 1992.
Cianna Stewart, working for the Living Well Project (formerly the San Francisco Asian Pacific Islander AIDS Services) also developed sexual/gender diversity and HIV/AIDS awareness handbooks and videos in five languages, during the mid-1990s. Stewart also contributed to “Tomboy, Dyke, Lezzie and Bi: Filipina Lesbian and Bisexual Women Speak Out,” in Filipino Americans: Transformation and Identity, edited by Maria P. Root. In 1996, Stewart co-led a training on “What's bisexuality got to do with it?” held in conjunction with California's Lesbian, Gay and AIDS LIFE Lobby and Institute alongside Stephanie Berger, Elias Farajaje-Jones, Lani Ka’ahumanu, Felicia Park-Rogers, Brandon Taylor, and Roland Sintos Coloma.
On May 3, 1989 and May 16, 1990, Cliff Arnesen became the first and only openly bisexual (and non-heterosexual) veteran in USA history to testify on behalf of gay, lesbian, and bisexual veterans before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs: Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, on issues relating to AIDS/HIV, PTSD, homelessness, gays in the military, and upgrading of less-than-honorable. Arnesen was discharged from the military based on homosexuality and bisexuality.
He was court-martialed and sentenced to a year at hard labor in the stockade, of which He served a total of three months in “segregated confinement,” as other prisoners in the general prison population had threatened to rape and kill him.
Dr. Ibrahim Farajajé was the only out queer professor at Howard University, and founded Moving Violations, a men of color HIV/ AIDS focused direct political action group, in Washington, D.C.
In 1991, working with ACT-UP/DC, Farajajé led a sit-in occupying the Washington, D.C. mayor's office when no action was taken after meetings and reassurances with the mayor on D.C. and federal HIV/AIDS funding issues. For several years Dr. Farajaje served as the Provost and Professor of Cultural Studies and Islamic Studies at the Starr King School for the Ministry.
Dr. Loraine Hutchins is an American bisexual and feminist author, activist, and sex educator. Hutchins rose to prominence as co-editor (with Lani Ka’ahumanu) of Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out, an anthology that is one of the seminal books in the bisexual rights movement. As an advocate and organizer in bi communities for over 3 decades and a professor of women's studies, Hutchins was chosen by the National Parks Service to author a bisexual history chapter as part of "LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History." As a BiNet USA co-founder, Hutchins delivered a benediction in honor of the passing of Dr. Ibrahim Farajajè at the 2016 Bisexual Community Briefing at the White House.
The Boston Bisexual Women's Network (f. 1983), the oldest extant bisexual women's group, begins publishing their bi-monthly newsletter, Bi Women, still run by its co-founder, gender and sexuality expert and BiNet USA co-founder Robyn Ochs. The longest-lived bisexual newsletter in the USA, more than a thousand people currently receive BI Women. Robyn Ochs remains the most prolific bisexual speaker in the United States, doing hundreds of presentations on bisexuality and breaking binaries, along with other topics of gender/sexuality expertise. Ochs has the distinction of being a co-founder of BiNet USA, The Bisexual Resource Center, and The Boston Bisexual Women's Network. Ochs still runs their now quarterly magazine, Bi Women Quarterly. Ochs has also authored or edited several works on bisexuality including Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around The World and Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men co-edited with nationally recognized Black sexuality and spirituality expert Dr. Herukhuti. On 17 May 2004, the first day it was legal for same-sex couples to marry anywhere in the United States, Ochs and her long-time partner Peg Preble were among the first same-sex couples to get legally married in Massachusetts, which the media erroneously labeled as a lesbian wedding.
Gigi Raven Wilbur is an American bisexual rights activist, intersex pioneer, and writer active in the BDSM community. She has a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a master's degree in social work. Wilbur was a state organizer in Texas with a bisexuality radio show, and a coordinator for BiNet USA. In 1999, the first Celebrate Bisexuality Day (September 23) was organized by her, Wendy Curry, and Michael Page; to quote Wendy Curry, “We were sitting around at one of the annual bi conventions, venting and someone, I think it was Gigi, said we should have a party. We all loved the great bisexual, Freddie Mercury. His birthday was in September, so why not September? We wanted a weekend day to ensure the most people would do something. Gigi's birthday was Sept 23rd. It fell on a weekend day, so poof! We had a day.”
Liz Highleyman got involved with AIDS advocacy as a member of ACT UP/Boston in the late 1980s and has been a leading medical writer and editor specializing in HIV and viral hepatitis. Liz has written for publications including Achieve (ACRIA), Aidsmap (NAM), GMHC Treatment Issues, HCV Advocate, POZ, Positively Aware, and The Well Project. She is a former editor of the Bulletin of Experimental Treatments for AIDS (BETA), published by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and former health editor for Ask Jeeves (now Ask.com). She studied at Harvard School of Public Health and is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. She was named editor-in-chief of HIVandHepatitis.com in February 2011.
Victor J. Raymond, PhD, is a sociologist, writer, and longtime bisexual activist. He is a former co-coordinator of BiNet USA, a founding committee member of the BECAUSE Bisexual Empowerment Conference, and has presented several times at the Creating Change conference.
Raymond was the co-chair of the People of Color Caucus of It's Time Minnesota, and the vice-chair of the Minnesota American Indian AIDS Task Force (now Indigenous People's Task Force). Besides his LGBTQ activism, he is a founding member and Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Carl Brandon Society, an organization dedicated to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction, and the chair of the Tekumel Foundation.
A teen organizer for gay and bi men of color, Angel Fabian co-organizes National Task Force on AIDS Prevention's first Gay/Bisexual Young Men of Color Summit at Gay Men of Color Conference in Miami FL. Fabian helped establish a spinoff program providing AIDS prevention information and support for gay and bisexual men of color in San Mateo County called House of Hope. Fabian was also a Health Promotion Specialist in AIDS Project Los Angeles' POWER Program, and Coordinator of Gay and Bisexual Men's Services at the Hispanic AIDS Forum in New York.
American writer and activist Gary North began publishing Bisexuality: News, Views, and Networking, the first national bisexual newsletter, in 1988. He became a BiNet USA co-founder and president, and is now its treasurer.
North is a newspaper editor, former president of the Los Angeles Newspaper Guild/Southern California Media Guild (AFL-CIO), and a prolific writer, editor, and publisher of bisexual content for three decades. Along with writing for his own publishing imprint, Gary has also written for Huffington Post on bisexual issues.
North is a founder of the Conflict Resolution Service and CredibilityWatch.org.
Bisexuals have a history of being in the center of the marriage equality fight in the United States. Lindasusan Ulrich and Emily Drennen were married three times — twice during California's period of on-again, off-again marriage rights during the Proposition 8 era. Their photos were used in news pieces across the country, and they were labeled a lesbian couple, but both Ulrich and Drennen identify as bisexual women. In 2011, Ulrich was a principal author of an internationally recognized 46-page report on bi erasure. Drennen was also arrested while participating in a civil disobedience after one of the California state rulings banning same-sex marriage, handcuffed in her wedding dress.
Included content is from Wikipedia and BiNetUSA